Section 5: Organizing Thoughts into Paragraphs

Skills Focus: Exposition/Sources Analyze/interpret the personal experience you’ve described and explain how it relates to a source idea about identity

Skills Focus: Organization Edit to unify and differentiate paragraphs, giving each ¶ its own purpose and using the white space between ¶s to signal movement of thought

Reading HW In Mastering the Craft of Writing, read Chapter 35, “Use Paragraphs to Frame Your Thought and Set Your Pace”

Writing HW, part 1: Develop a Paragraph Sequence about a Personal Experience Last week you described a personal experience in which you became more keenly aware of your identity. The next step is to refine your description and analyze your experience to develop material for your personal essay. Aim to organize your discussion into a sequence of distinct paragraphs, each of which builds on or responds to the prior paragraph. Here’s one possible way of breaking your story into paragraphs:
  1. In the first ¶, focus on painting a picture—on narrating the sequence of actions or events and describing the people, interactions, and emotions involved.
    • Use concrete language and sensory details with the goal of vividly painting the scene so that your readers can picture it in their own minds.
    • Provide ample but thoughtfully selected details and try to use concrete language.
    • In this 1st ¶, avoid using evaluative adjectives (good/bad) or describing your emotions about the image, and refrain from interpreting or explaining the significance of the experience.
  2. In the 2nd ¶, provide background information about the incident
    • Shift from what is visible and audible to what cannot be seen or heard. Help your readers make sense of the scene you described and lay the groundwork for further discussion of it by providing contextual information—by explaining what cannot be readily inferred from the sensory details in your descriptive ¶
    • For instance, you might identity the location where the event took place or where the photo was shot; you might explain what was going on at the time and perhaps recount events leading up to the moment you’re focusing on; you might note the names of other people involved and explain their relationship to you
    • For this background ¶, focus on conveying facts relevant to your experience, but hold off on analyzing its meaning or explaining its emotional resonance for you;
  3. Having described concrete, outwardly evident elements of your experience and provided some key facts about the context, in a 3rd ¶ you could describe your inward thoughts and emotions.
  4. In a 4th ΒΆ, you might analyze the experience. What factors brought on this moment of self-awareness? Why did you respond as you did? What inferences do you draw from your experience—what does it appear to reveal about personal identity? How did the experience affect you?
  5. Post your paragraph sequence to the student writing section of the course website.

Writing HW, part 2: Relate Your Personal Experience to a Source Idea about Identity Though your essay should primarily focus on discussing your personal experience of identity, the assignment also asks you to connect your discussion to another writer’s remarks about identity as a way to establish a motive for your essay. To get started on this part of the assignment,
  • I recommend rereading the source you plan to cite to ensure you have a strong grasp of the writer’s claim
  • Later, you’ll need to figure out where and how best to bring in this secondary source idea. For now, develop your thoughts by drafting 2 short ¶s (75-100 words):
    • In the first, accurately and succinctly paraphrase the source idea.
    • In a second short ¶, briefly explain how the source idea corresponds to or differs from your own experience of identity. (In your essay, you can, if you like, expand on these reflections.)
  • Email me your ¶s